Swatting is A Serious Crime

By Representative Bill Sutton

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Rep. Bill Sutton

We had a “swatting” incident yesterday in Gardner.  For those unfamiliar with the term, swatting involves making a false 911 call to draw law enforcement to an address. Often, software is utilized to mask the location or identity of the caller.  The call usually makes a claim of either domestic violence or a hostage situation, either include a claim of the involvement of a firearm.

Imagine the scenario.  Law enforcement believes they are walking into a highly volatile situation. Domestic disputes are generally the most chaotic calls police respond to, no one at the address will be thinking or behaving rationally.

The victim is unaware of anything going on.  Suddenly law enforcement arrives, usually in force, perhaps with weapons drawn.  They bang on the door.  How does the victim respond?  Who knows, how would you respond?

That’s the situation that arose for Andrew Finch in Wichita last December.  He reached for something in his waistband.  Was he reaching for a gun?  Reaching for his phone? Pulling up his pants?  Law enforcement had no idea.  Andrew Finch was killed by what might have been a prank phone call.

This year, we passed a law named after Andrew Finch that stiffens penalties for making an unlawful request for emergency services and for using an electronic device or software to conceal or disguise the caller’s identity. It also increases the penalties if someone is injured or killed during the incident by emergency responders. If someone dies, the person who made the fake call could be charged with a homicide.

If a person is charged with a crime, the bill would prohibit a defense in court that blames others — such as police — for the injuries.

This was a good bill, and I gladly supported it, but it does nothing to help the victim…only punish the perpetrator.  Swatting is not a prank call.  I am disturbed that we had to deal with the issue in Gardner, and I urge everyone to understand the seriousness of the matter.